On November 2, the second installment in the DMC and ACE book club took place over Zoom. Following the guidelines listed in Together: Building Stronger, Better Communities, ACE representatives participated in a “Community Checkup” to assess the status of civic life in their towns. According to Dr. Mathews, “Many of the things communities do must be done by citizens working together.”

DMC Executive Director Rachel Mosness guided each of the seven participating ACE communities in assessing their towns in these key areas: leaderfulness, consumers versus producer, associations, and communication. Many communities shared their experiences with leaderful citizens who take projects into their own hands and act as “door-openers” to encourage others to get more involved. Dr. Mathews states the importance of developing a leaderful community: “Resilient communities make leadership everybody’s business, not just the business of a few. They don’t equate leadership exclusively with positions of authority.”

Communities also spoke on how many citizens have formed informal groups to connect with one another. Whether through literary groups, bible studies, or even the informal small-business advisory group recently formed in Ashville, communities can easily find existing small social groups in their area; however, community leaders should look for opportunities to invite these groups into their programming to ensure more active civic engagement and inclusion across the population.

Along those lines, communication between authorities and the people in a community is a crucial aspect for keeping everyone connected. ACE communities stressed the importance of utilizing their unique methods to engage and inform their citizens, such as local newspapers and magazines, social media platforms and websites, and Eufaula’s recently restored Martin Theatre marquee. Each community in the state has one-of-a-kind elements that bring community members together and celebrate what makes their town special.

Next week, the ACE communities will learn all about deliberation and dialogue and how they can implement these practices in their local communities.